Climate Change, along with Brexit, poses the greatest political challenge we face. This week, a UN intergovernmental report on climate change warned that we have just twelve years to get our act together to have a chance at preventing catastrophe. Some, including many in the government, roll their eyes at what they see as sensationalism from environmentalists. They are wrong. The threat is real. The consequences are already unfolding. Climate change is a crisis not for the next generation, but for all of us now.
We have got to limit temperature increases to 1.5 degrees to avoid global catastrophe. We are running out of time. That challenge may seem daunting but it is a challenge we must meet and we will meet. We might even create a better world in the process.
Given the sobering effect of this report it seemed frustratingly illustrative of this Tory government that whilst these headlines were circling, two policy changes were announced. Firstly, fracking for shale gas would go ahead after a court appeal failed. Second, a scheme to subsidise electric cars to make them more affordable and viable would end. The Tories clearly don’t care about the future, just interested in making more money for their donors.
Climate change presents a threat but also an opportunity to advance public policy decisions that can create a genuinely better world. Whilst the Lib Dems plastic bag tax has been an overwhelming success, it is almost literally a drop in the ocean. More needs to be done.
So, if the government won't act, it falls to cities like Bristol to be more pro-active in pushing for greener policies. The Liberal Democrats were founded on principles of environmentalism and localism, and by combining the two in Bristol – a hotbed of progressive politics – we can demonstrate that fighting climate change doesn’t have to be an overwhelming or expensive task. It can transform our economy and our communities.
In Bristol, it is believed that over 300 people die every year because of pollution in our city. The city has failed to comply with EU legal limits on air pollution for years, and we need to act now at all levels to bring that down to zero. This is unacceptable.
The council is currently consulting on its future transport policies and is considering several options. Personally, I support the creation of an ultra-low emissions zone in the city which would dramatically cut air pollution, freeing the road from high-polluting vehicles and encourage Bristolians onto public transport and the cycle network. Another proposal not currently being considered would be for all private hire vehicles and diesel buses licensed to operate in Bristol to run on ultra-low emission or zero emission fuels by 2024. Making our transport greener and emission free will have a profound impact on people living in the city, as well saving our local NHS trusts millions every year.
We cannot afford delays and half measures. We cannot afford to choose between a clean environment and a strong economy, we have to provide both. It’s time to invest properly in clean energy, producing clean jobs and a clean economy. Bristol is the city to lead this clean revolution.
As your MP, I would be lobbying the government, the regional Mayor and the Bristol City Council to set up Bristol as a green pilot city. We can and should be leading the way on in transform our cities into modern, sustainable urban areas. There is much we can do at every level, but without government support we cannot achieve everything.